The Canary Islanders at Home
IT WAS LATE in the evening when Juan Leal Goraz reached his hut that stood at the edge of Arrecife, the largest town in Lanzarote. On his way home from the town hall the chirrups of crickets told him that the drought, now three weeks old, might continue to plague this northerly island of the Canary group well into the summer.
As he entered the door, Goraz showed that he was in bad temper by kicking his faithful dog so violently as to send the poor cur headlong into the dusty court. For no apparent reason he scolded his daughter, Catarina, a comely girl of fifteen, and chided his twelve-year-old son, Bernardo, the pet of the family. He spoke harshly to his wife, Luisa, and stalked sullenly into the kitchen, where lie sat in silence awaiting the evening meal. His family appeared to ignore the incident and went quietly on with their occupations.
During thirty years of married life, Juan Leal Goraz had suffered frequent and sometimes violent mental upsets, which Luisa and their five children observed in silence. The family’s attitude on such occasions will be better understood when it is known that Juan was twenty one and Luisa only fifteen when they married, and because of the difference in their ages , Luisa agreed at the outset to regard her husband as lord of the household, with full and final authority in all domestic affairs, and no matter how foolish or whimsical his moods might prove to be, to respect them by remaining silent.
Soon after marriage Luisa learned that her husband was a forward, overbearing egotist, and that his chief delight was in arguing with anyone who held opposing views. Often she had seen him gloat after he had forced his personal opinions on others, and fume when his enemies had outdone him in debate.
From Juan’s conduct on this day, Luisa assumed that he had lost another argument with some of his fellow townsmen, and in that case she and their children would do well to ignore his sullenness until his disposition improved. After a hearty supper, Juan relaxed and began to talk. Encouraged by Luisa, he told the family about the events of the afternoon.
It seems the mayor had called a special meeting of the town council to discuss a matter that it had settled a month ago when it ordered Goraz as its lawful agent to trade a flock of Lanzarote goats for a thousand fanegas of wheat. He went to Santa Cruz in Teneriffe, at what he termed "great personal sacrifice," and made the deal. The traders promised him they would ship the grain without delay, and he assured them that the goats would be loaded at Arrecife as soon as their men discharged the cargo of wheat. Now the council was worried because the wheat had not arrived, and some members were unwilling to spend any more money for feed for the goats that had been impounded for several weeks at the alameda in Arrecife. Today the council had suggested that it cancel the contract Goraz had made and attempt to trade the goats to another concern for a shipment of wheat. Some members of the council were panicky and were telling the people that there was only a two weeks’ supply of wheat in the entire island of Lanzarote.
They forgot, Goraz complained, that Santa Cruz in Teneriffe is nearby, and that a ketch laden with grain might anchor off Arrecife at any moment, and they ought to give the first traders a fair chance to fulfil their contract. Again Juan Leal Goraz felt he had overcome his enemies by the skillful use of his superior mind! If he had actually won an argument with the town council over the wheat question, thought Luisa, why should he be so upset? Tactfully, she tried to find out, and asked if the council had discussed any other matters.
Juan’s lone eye flashed fire, the visible portion of his bearded face turned red and the fingers of his left hand trembled as they clutched the butt of a cigarito. He pounded the table so violently that he shattered an earthen bowl, a large fragment of which glanced harmlessly off Luisa’s forearm. Turning to her, he shouted the real reason for his bad temper.
Andres Pacheco, senior member of the council, had had the temerity to demand that they postpone tomorrow’s fiesta only for the reason that the wheat had not arrived. He knew that Goraz had been planning for this event for the past two weeks and had visited the principal settlements arranging for food and entertainment. Yet the council would have adopted Pacheco’s suggestion if Goraz had not argued that the act of holding the fiesta would not in any way affect the food supply.
He maintained that any fool should know that the people would not eat any more food at the fiesta than if they stayed at home, and that the gaiety of the event should ease all fear of a famine, if the evil omens of some members of the council had caused any. Apparently he talked on until the members became so tired of hearing him that they finally voted to hold the fiesta as he first planned it. He could not see why he should have to fight so hard for a tiling as pleasing to all the people as a grand fiesta! It was the silly attitude of the council that upset him.
With an air of finality, Goraz turned to his wife and remarked that, as he was to be master of ceremonies, every member of his family would have to co-operate with him in making the fiesta a success by being at the plaza at Arrecife on time, with their share of food for the grand supper, and by taking part in all activities of the occasion.
Such outbursts of temper as Juan Leal Goraz displayed in this instance occurred often among the natives of the Canary Islands two centuries ago. They caused bitter quarrels, followed at times by physical violence. Scientists have offered many theories in explanation of the causes, but tradition has supplied an interesting though not altogether plausible reason for these mental upsets.
Countless ages ago, Lanzarote, with its sister islands of the Canary group, became disunited from the mainland of north-west Africa, as it sheared away with a giant cleaver and suddenly left resting in the Atlantic Ocean, separated from its homeland by a thousand fathoms of water, many miles from shore.
Nature was not very kind to Lanzarote. She formed the island of volcanic elements, and after these had lain quiet for centuries, hellish eruptions covered the island with scorching ashes and crawling lava, as though to outdo the blistering heat of the sun and the parching winds that blew in from the desert mainland. She made the surface of the island rugged and irregular, and spread sterile basaltic sand over much of the area. She was stingy with life-giving water, and when the winds blew, thick clouds of volcanic dust filled the air. Lanzarote, therefore, at first offered doubtful existence to life in any form, and none but the sturdiest human beings and hardiest vegetation could long survive.
As a partial offset for her harsh treatment of the Canary Islands, Nature gave them, as their first inhabitants, human beings of unusual size and stamina, whose huge bodies, speech and customs were like those of the ancient Berbers of the African mainland. In the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, the Spanish conquistadores called these people "Majoreros," from the type of shoe they wore, while the Spaniards in Grand Canarv, Teneriffc, Comera, Hierro, and Palma knew them as "Guanches." These giants were strong, industrious, and patriotic people, who for centuries turned back numerous invaders from Africa and Europe.
The Guanches were light skinned people with red or blond hair and large heads. A second group that populated the islands were Semites with black hair, dark skin and medium stature. A third type of people that lived in the Canary Islands before the arrival of the Spaniards was not well defined. This group was small of stature with small heads, large eyes and long noses.
The Spaniards conquered the Canary Islands in the fifteenth century, and thereafter the races intermarried. In those days illiteracy was general, and under Spanish rule the Roman Catholic religion displaced the rites and superstitions of the Majoreros and Guanches. Supervision of religious matters was so rigid that for generations no one could remain long on the islands who had not embraced the Holy Faith.
Such was the situation on May 2, 1729, when Juan Leal Goraz argued with the other members of the town council at Arrecife in Lanzarote over the wheat and fiesta questions.
Goraz' personal appearance was coarse. He was dark-skinned, tall but stooped, and he wore a long shaggy black beard. In his youth he had lost his Left eye from the kick of a mu1e, and the gaping, watery eye-socket was offensive. Like most of the people of Lanzarote, he never went to school and could not read or write, but he had an alert mind and had been a member of the town council for many years. Despite his ugly features and his bossy. overbearing manner, he was the leading politician of the island. He had reared five children, the eldest, of whom was now twenty-nine years old, and so far as anyone knew, Juan Leal Goraz had not earned so much as a peseta at manual labor in his life. By intrigue, and through his role as political boss of Lanzarote, he had made only a scant living for himself and family. He was naturally lazy and passed on to others public duties which he himself had assumed. When the results were good, Goraz. Took all the credit: when otherwise, he denied all responsibility and took special pains to rebuke the person who he alleged had failed to carry out orders.
The people of Lanzarote observed more feast days during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than was customary in the other islands of the Canaries, or for that matter, anywhere else in the Spanish kingdom. The desire to frolic was handed down from the Majoreros and in these islanders became so fond of public feasts that neither illness nor bad weather would keep them away.
To provide excuses for more fiestas, leading citizens of Lanzarote adopted for themselves "patron saints," in whose honor it became the custom to hold special celebrations. As a rule, these "patron saints" were mere creatures of imagination, and the names they bore were selected more for their phonetic smoothness than religious meaning. Two centuries ago a citizen of Lanzarote rarely chose a canonized saint as his moral sponsor.
It was the custom in Lanzarote for the town council at Arrecife to supervise all public celebrations not sponsored by the church. About a month before each such event the council chose a master of ceremonies and held him responsible for the success of the occasion. It was his duty to inform the people of the nature and date of the gathering and to require each family attending to bring its share of food for the grand supper. After a time, the people of the island came to regard the position of master of ceremonies of a fiesta as one of high distinction, and to avoid jealousies, the council took turn in selecting leading citizens to fill the place.
When the members of the town council named Goraz to organize the forthcoming fiesta, they circulated the report that he had just done a great service to the community by trading a flock of Lanzarote goats for a cargo of wheat to be shared by the families of the island. The council said that Goraz should have special recognition for his part in the trade, although its members well knew that the wheat had not arrived.
Goraz spread the word over Lanzarote that the fiesta would be held in honor of Nuestra Senora Santisima Clara de la Casa Blanca, but he was careful not to mention that she was his new patron saint and that, in collusion with other members of the town council, he was promoting a celebration in honor of his own fifty-second birthday at the expense of the citizens of Lanzarote!
On the day after the stormy meeting of the town council at Arrecife, Juan Curbelo, a beachcomber and arriero, or muledriver, left his thatched cabin at dawn, mounted a small Spanish mule, and jogged half a league (a Spanish league is 2.6 miles) to a stretch of sandy beach that lay along the lower shore of Lanzarote.
Usually Curbelo did not rise so early in the morning, but on this day there was good reason for his change of habit. He had spent an uneasy night thinking about his problems, but his chief worry was over the success of the fiesta that was to start late that afternoon in the plaza at Arrecife, two leagues up the shore from his home. He had told Juan Leal Goraz that he would supply firewood for the roasting pit, and although lie had worked hard for a week to obtain it, he still needed a few pieces of timber to make sure there would be enough. As there were no trees to speak of in Lanzarote and firewood was scarce, the only resource upon which lie could depend was the sea, and it was uncertain. In the early morning hours, while Curbelo's sub-conscious mind was moving over the range of his problems, it halted sharply at the suggestion: "Suppose on this, the last morning before the fiesta, the sea should fail me! What then?" Waking with a start, he quickly put on his sheepskin pantalones, waistcoat, and sandals and started out fully determined to finish the job that Goraz had given him.
While looking for firewood along the beach the evening before, Curbelo found a closely sewed goatskin bag full of dry wheat, which he took home. This lone piece of jetsam told the fate of some unfortunate ship that had gone to pieces on the reefs two leagues offshore. Curbelo thought that by returning to the beach early in the morning, he might find another bag or two of wheat, and this would add to his scant supply of food at home, but the real object would be to obtain enough firewood for the needs of the fiesta. If he succeeded in the latter case, he would deprive Juan Leal Gorza of any just excuse for calling him a shirker.
Juan Curbelo had little regard for Goraz' integrity and resented the fact that he had to take an active interest in the coming fiesta. When he arrived at the beach, Curbelo was thinking of his dislike of Goraz, and suddenly it occurred to him that for the past week, while gathering firewood under Goraz' direction, he might have been aiding that lazy politician in playing some self-serving trick upon his neighbors. However, his family liked fiestas and as they had made plans to attend this one, he would not disappoint them.
Juan Curbelo tied his mule to a boulder and began to scan the shoreline. About two hundred paces away he saw some strange objects, and, walking rapidly, he soon came upon two young men. One lay on the sand and the other, in a half-sitting position, was trying painfully to rise. Their hands and faces were bruised and swollen and their clothing torn and wet. Nearby lay a piece of ship's rigging which Curbelo recognized as a sail boom.
From their appearance Curbelo thought the strangers were Portuguese and demanded to know what they were doing in Lanzarote. In Canary Island Spanish they replied that they were natives of the Canaries and were in serious trouble. They begged food and water, saying that they had had neither since late the previous afternoon.
Curbelo invited the shipwrecked men to visit his hut, which was half a league inland and upgrade all the way. From their appearance, he doubted their ability to climb the hill, but when assured they could do so, the three set out. The spokesman gave his name as Francisco Arocha, twenty-five years old, a native of the island of Palma, and his friend as Vicente Travieso, twenty-four,
of the island of Teneriffe. It was soon noted that Arocha was too lame to walk. and Curbelo put him astride the mule. Travieso was able to make the trip unaided, and soon they were on their way. Before he left the beach, Curbelo examined the sail boom with the idea that he might later use it to complete his supply of firewood for the fiesta. As they moved slowly up the hill, Francisco Arocha told Curbelo about the troubles the two young men had had during the previous five days.
Five days before, Los Comerciantes Nacionales, a large trading concern at Santa Cruz in Teneriffe, hired Arocha as skipper, with six young men under his command, to sail the ketch, La Aquila, laden with a thousand fanegas of wheat, to the port of Arrecife in Lanzarote. He chose his friend, Vicente Travieso, a seaman of some experience, as first mate and picked a crew of five strong young men from a crowd of idle boatmen on the quay at Santa Cruz.
The cargo of La Aquila was consigned to the town council at Arrecife. The shore at Arrecife is so rugged that ships cannot approach it safely, and for that reason Arocha's orders directed him to anchor the ketch half a league offshore, where rowboats would be ready to lighter the cargo to the town. After discharging the wheat, he was ordered to take aboard a flock of the town council at Arrecife had pledged in payment of the wheat. Having done this, he was to return to Santa Crux, deliver the ketch and its cargo of goats to his employers, receive his pay, and accept his discharge.
The weather was favorable when they embarked at Santa Cruz and under able seamanship. La Aguila reached the Strait of la Bocayna in good time. Navigation of this strait that lies between Lanzarote and Fuerteventura required great skill, since Lobos Island lies almost athwart the course, and here are likely to encounter cross winds. They steered the ketch without mishap past Lobos Island, when to their dismay her rudder became unshipped, and after that they could not direct her course.
Travieso remained on board with Arocha, who sent the other five members of the crew in the lifeboat to Las Cabras in Fuerteventura in search of aid. La Aquila drifted aimlessly in an easterly direction for several hours, then suddenly a strong south wind arose and drove the craft onto the reefs two leagues offshore between Puerto Papagayo and Arrecife. The ketch pounded the shoals for two days and nights, while they waited in vain for help from Las Cabras. During that time, they jettisoned hundreds of bags of wheat, hoping that the ketch, relieved of the weight, would dislodge herself. They went to the fo'castle for food and a little rest, and had no sooner seated themselves than the bow listed to port and their crippled little ketch parted amidship.
Travieso and Arocha took to the water and first stripped the sail boom from the mainmast for use as a life buoy. By good swimming, they followed the troughs beyond the shoals and soon found themselves in deep water. They held doggedly to the boom and continued to swim towards shore ahead of a light breeze. A kind Providence directed them to this beach, which they reached shortly after dark. Their strength almost gone. they moved a safe distance from the water and stretched themselves on the sand for the night. They slept fitfully until Travieso awoke first and then called Arocha when he saw Curbelo coming towards them.
Curbelo's wile, Gracia, and their three daughters warmly welcomed the strangers. Seeing their condition, they gave the visitors water and quickly prepared a meal of gofio, a native dough made of parched ground wheat and goat's milk. Early that morning Curbelo's older daughters, Maria Ana, seventeen, and Juana, thirteen, had parched and ground half the bag of wheat he had found on the beach the night before, and there was no delay in feeding the hungry young men. The family chatterbox, Maria, twelve years old, amused the guests with a stream of childish prattle, while shy little Juan Francisco, eight years old, sat quietly on his bunk, eying the swollen faces and tattered clothing of the strangers. Curbelo's oldest child, Jose, nineteen, was also a mule driver, and he had left early that morning with four pack mules loaded with goods for a merchant at the village of San Bartolome, three leagues west of Arrecife.
The effects of a bad night and the unexpected events of the morning Curbelo to seat himself outside his hut, where he could quietly think about conditions in Lanzarote while his family entertained Arocha and Travieso. He recalled that a scorching wind off the African desert had wilted vegetation and dried the water springs high in the hills, and as a result, sheep and goats, two vital sources of livelihood in the island, were dying from lack of food and water. The cargo of wheat so long expected was now lost, and the people of the island, including his own family, soon would be hungry unless the town council at Arrecife could quickly get another supply. For three weeks the citizens of Arrecife had been importing drinking water from the nearby island of Fuerteventura, and, to make matters worse, old Monte Blanco, the only volcano in Lanzarote, had been restless for several months, and at any moment might shower the island with lava, bringing death and destruction. Could any of La Aquila's sunken cargo be saved? Would it be proper to tell the council at Arrecife at once about the fate of the ketch? If the wheat were lost, what should the council now do with the goats to save precious food and water? While trying to find sound answers to these questions, Curbelo's family and their guests came out to look over the gristmill that stood near where he was seated.
Gracia Curbelo and her daughters had told the strangers about the fiesta to be held that afternoon, and, although tired and lame, the young men promised to go along as guests of the family.
When Curbelo asked Arocha and Travieso their opinion about salvaging the wheat, they said that the entire cargo lay at the bottom of the sea, and if any were recovered, salt water would have made it unfit for use. Curbelo suggested that, when they arrived at the fiesta, they tell the members of the town council' present all the facts about the loss of the ketch and its cargo, so that the council might take early steps to obtain another supply. Curbelo then left for the beach to get the sail boom to complete his supply of for the roasting pit at the fiesta.
Arocha and Travieso were so refreshed after the meal that they offered to grind the rest of the bag of salvaged wheat. They found the Curbelo family's mill easy to operate. It was of a sort used throughout the Canaries, and consisted of two flat circular stones, the lower of which lay horizontally on a firm base. Suspended above the lower stone from an iron swivel bolted to a cross arm held by two upright timbers, rested the upper stone that was so adjusted that it barely touched the lower. The operator poured the wheat to be ground into a hole in the center of the upper stone; and, as he turned it by hand with a short lever, the grain trickled between the stones, where it was crushed, and the bran-like product settled into an earthen vessel below. Curbelo's daughters looked on with admiration as the young men expertly ground the last of the salvaged wheat.
At noon Gracia Curbelo saw that Arocha and Travieso were very tired, and, having in mind that they would attend the fiesta at Arrecife late that afternoon, she urged them to lie on Juan's bed and rest for a spell. While they slept, she mended their clothing, and when they awoke, an hour after the time set to leave for the fiesta, she gave each a bright new manta, or light blanket, she had woven on the family loom for her own menfolk.
Leading two pack mules loaded with firewood, the Curbelo family and their guests set out for the fiesta at Arrecife. They had not gone far when Arocha became so lame that he had to have assistance during the rest of the journey. Progress was slow, and the party did not reach the plaza at Arrecife until two hours after the time Curbelo had promised to deliver the firewood.
It was early in the afternoon before the fiesta opened when Juan Leal Goraz arrived at the plaza at Arrecife to see that the roasting pit was clean and in good order and that the retreta, or promenade path, was free of stone's and other obstructions. He assured himself that the places set apart for the musicians and dancers were suitable, and then talked with several persons to whom he had given special tasks, to learn whether they had obeyed his instructions.
The first persons Goraz met were his oldest son, Juan Leal, ]r. and his wife, Maria, and their four children, who had arrived early. To Juan, Jr., and his wife fell the responsibility of providing instrumental music for the native songs and dances. Both were regarded as good musicians, and, with their guitars strapped across their shoulders, they took their places on the platform and waited for the crowd to gather.
Next came Antonio Santos and his wife, Isabel, and their five children, bringing two dressed kids, which they turned over to Goraz as their donation to the grand supper. Santos was a solid citizen of Arrecife, and for many years he had been a member of the town council. He lived on the outskirts of the town where he pastured a flock of goats.
Goraz then met Jose Padron and Maria, his bride of three months. Padron was a weaver of goats' hair and made fine blankets, one of which lie had exchanged for two fanegas of parched wheat for gofio for the fiesta.
Salvador Rodriguez was a cheesemaker, and, with his wife and fourteen-year-old son, brought a huge cheese; Juan Rodriguez, a potter, and his wife, Maria, and their five children donated the cash proceeds of a large crock Juan Cabrera, a water vender, supplied a barrel of spring water that he had ferried across the strait from Las Cabras in Fuerteventura. Luis Delgado, a tanner, and his family of five gave a richly dressed sheepskin as a prize for the best dancer. Francisco Benavides, a merchant, delivered to Goraz a large cheese and two dressed goats as his gifts for the feast. As Manuel Gomez, another merchant, handed Goraz four dressed goats and two gallons of goat's milk, he whispered a happy birthday greeting to the master of ceremonies, which Goraz pretended not to hear. As other families arrived at the plaza, Goraz received donations of food and trinkets, the latter to be awarded as prizes in the various contests.
Soon the plaza was a riot of color and conversation. Mantas and mantillas in vivid shades covered almost every shoulder, while the skirts of the women and girls bore an array of designs in red, green, and blue. There was more uniformity in the clothing of the men, who wore close-fitting pantalones with fringed seams, broad sashes of brightly colored silk or velvet placed about the waist, and short vests with embroidered edges. Of the men, Juan Leal Goraz was the most gaudily dressed. His manta had wide alternating stripes in bright red and green colors, and to set himself apart from the other men, he wore diagonally across his breast a frayed, greasy, purple sash that some Spanish nobleman long since had discarded.
The speech of the people of Lanzarote was as colorful as their apparel. They were pitifully ignorant of matters outside their small island, and the jargon they used was acquired without the aid of books or teachers. They had so corrupted the Spanish language that persons familiar only with Castilian, or court Spanish, hardly understood them. This patois was almost deafening as the revelers gathered at the plaza in Arrecife to honor Nuestra Senora Santisima de la Casa Blanca, the latest name on the list of local "patron saints."
Near the center of the plaza stood a large boulder half buried in the earth. Several strange symbols were carved on the east side of the rock, which, according to local tradition, were in the language of the ancient Majoreros. Deeply chiseled on the west side was the Spanish word, "verdad," meaning "truth," which the natives said was a faithful translation of the markings on the opposite side. For two centuries the boulder had served as a monument to the bravery of the Majoreros and also as a rostrum from which public speakers talked to the crowds that often met in the plaza.
The origin of the boulder is unknown, but there were many legends about it. The tale most commonly accepted began with the statement that when the Romans visited Lanzarote in the century before the birth of Christ, they killed many natives of the island but did not subdue them all, and the survivors surrendered only on condition that they would remain free and unmolested. Later on, the Romans invited the Majoreros to attend a grand celebration at the site that later became the plaza at Arrecife. When the islanders arrived, they found that a great company of Roman soldiers had formed a hollow square around the festal grounds. Within the square was a large arena in which there were ten ferocious lions. With great courtesy the captain of the Romans persuaded the natives to inspect the arena, and when the chief of the Majoreros stepped forward, a body of soldiers seized him and were about to cast him to the lions when suddenly Monte Blanco, the only volcano on the island, poured forth thick clouds of fire and smoke that so frightened the Romans that they threw themselves on the ground, and in thc confusion, the islanders escaped. Before the Romans could rise to their feet, the volcano discharged a huge, red-hot boulder with such force that it rolled among them, killing many of the soldiers and all the lions. The invaders who escaped left the island at once and never came back.
The boulder stopped in the center of the arena, where it had lain for eighteen centuries as a reminder of tlie fate of a host of deceitful foreign invaders. The natives believed that Providence directed the action of the volcano as punishment to the Romans for lying to the Majoreros. The boulder became known as "Piedra de Verdad," or "Rock of Truth," and no speaker would knowingly tell an untruth from its top for fear of sudden death, although he might repeat legends and tales whose origin and meaning had not been questioned. The natives, therefore, accepted as true all statements from the rock, no matter how fantastic or absurd they were.
When the time arrived for opening the fiesta, Juan Leal Goraz climbed to the top of the boulder and stated that the purpose of the event was to honor the heroic deeds of one of the lesser known, yet very worthy saints of Lanzarote, whose name was Nuesta Senora Santisima Clara de la Casa Blanca. So that those present might know more about the lady they had met to honor, Goraz told this story, which was the product of his own elastic imagination:
"Five or six centuries ago — the exact time is not important — an humble young woman by the name of Clara Mendoza lived with her parents in a white house near the crater of Monte Blanco. One night she dreamed she heard rumbling noises coming from the mouth of the volcano, and soon an angel appeared and ordered her to visit all the people of the island and urge them to move to other islands at once, otherwise they would suffer instant death.
"On the following morning, Clara Mendoza told her parents of her dream and begged them to heed the angel's warning and leave Lanzarote without delay. Clara then mounted her father's white mule and rode for days over the island, telling the people of her dream. All heeded her warnings except her own parents, who stubbornly refused to leave their white house on the side of the volcano. Clara returned to her home and while again begging her parents to leave Lanzarote, the volcano belched forth fire and brimstone and wiped out all trace of the three members of the Mendoza family. Because of Clara's heroic deed, all the other people left Lanzarote for a time and survived. Thereafter, the heroine became known as Nuestra Senora Santisima Clara de la Casa Blanca. I now show you a fine picture of this great lady, which my nine-year-old grandson, Miguel Leal, has made with great skill and precision."
With a flourish Juan Leal Goraz unrolled a goatskin, on the inner side of which was a crude charcoal drawing of a cross-eyed woman wearing a flowing mantilla, riding astride a stiff-legged mule that was headed down a steep hill. Near the top of the hill, heavy lines representing clouds of smoke covered one corner of the crude hut.
The crowd gathered around the boulder to examine the "art piece" and to congratulate Goraz upon being the grandfather of a young genius. Instead of acknowledging the praises of his hearers, Goraz impulsively cursed Juan Curbelo because there was no firewood for the roasting pit. There were piles of meat to roast, the pit was cold, and there was not a splinter of wood, he exclaimed. These people would soon be hungry and if Curbelo was any longer arriving, all they would get would be gofio and cheese, and a scanty bit at that, for there was not enough of these to satisfy everyone.
While Goraz was swearing at Curbelo, the latter quietly approached the roasting pit, leading two mules loaded with firewood. Behind him trudged his wife and children, accompanied by two strange young men, who limped as if in pain. It was evident to all that the visitors had been victims of some grave tragedy, yet as they took their places with the Curbelo family among the crowd, the smiles from their bruised faces partly concealed their physical pain.
Without a word Curbelo began laying the fire in the roasting pit, while Goraz bellowed his most expressive epithets. After he had started the fire, Curbelo stacked the unused wood in a neat pile beside the pit and then mounting the boulder, briefly related the facts about the wreck of the ketch La Aguila, the loss of the wheat, and the rescue of Francisco Arocha and Vicente Travieso.
He humbly apologized for arriving late at the fiesta.
News of the loss of the wheat shocked the older people present, except Goraz, who assumed an air of indifference and stated that he would have another supply of wheat in Lanzarote within a few days. Other members of the town council present were so disturbed over the incident that they gave little thought to the fiesta. The presence of the young heroes, Arocha and Travieso, however, served to turn the minds of the young people to more pleasant thoughts, and for them the celebration went along its carefree way.
Francisco and Vicente took part in singing native songs, and although bruised and lame, they danced those forms that required only slow and easy steps. Dancers vied with each other in doing the canaria, the fandango, and the zapateo, while the musicians played their guitars and thumped their sheepskin tambourines. For variety, the revelers engaged in the Spanish retreta, or promenade, about the plaza, as the young men, two or three abreast, walked arm in arm in clockwise direction, while the young women, in like formation, ambled along the adjoining path in the opposite direction, the better to see each other. At midnight, the women served the grand supper, consisting of gofio, cheese, roast goat meat, and dried fruits. After supper the young people resumed their singing and dancing, while they continued until the fiesta ended at dawn. The crowd then went quietly to the parish church nearby to attend mass before they returned to their homes for the day of rest and sleep. To the delight of Juan Curbelo’s daughters, Francisco and Vicente agreed to spend the remainder of their short visit to Lanzarote with the Curbelo family.